Monday, 4 November 2013

What A Year?!?!

2013 will go down in most birders memories as one of the best ever for rarities and not just the run-of-the-mill stuff that you'll catch up with every few years, but Monsters. Pine Grosbeak, Dusky Thrush (or hybrid, depending on whether you saw it or not!!), Pacific and Needle-tailed Swifts, Bridled Tern, Ascension Frigatebird, Swinhoe's Petrel, the list goes on and on.

For me, it has been one of my most difficult years, being unable to get away for most things, it had left me with only one new bird for the year, the Bridled Tern on The Farnes. A fantastic bird to finally catch up with after 2 previous dips in the eighties.

Going in to the autumn, I hadn't really held out much hope of anything new and with everything seemingly turning up on islands or in Ireland, it looked as I was right. Half term started and Liz had a few days off so I planned to go if something decent turned up.

Sunday 27th October 14.52pm **MEGA ALERT**
Co.Cork - Ruby-Crowned Kinglet - Cape Clear


Monday 28th October 12.05pm **MEGA ALERT**
Devon - Myrtle Warbler - Lundy

Saw one on The Scillies in '85

Monday 28th October 14.46pm **MEGA ALERT**
Highland - Mourning Dove - Isle of Rhum

Maps out and plans were being hatched, then it dawned on me that this wasn't actually going to be straightforward. Twitching a Scottish island need a bit more planning than a mainland twitch. After checking Bird Forum, I noticed a lift being offered from Ipswich, so sent a message. Six hours later, I left home to meet up on the A1 with Steve, Paul and Chris, for the long journey north. What a journey it turned out to be, roadworks and diversions everywhere, getting lost around Glasgow, but we finally arrived in Mallaig harbour just before 8am on the Tuesday.

As soon as we got out of the car, news came in online that the Dove was still present - and relax!!! After a trip to the local café for breakfast, we headed to the quay, where we had 2 Golden Eagles flying above the adjacent hillside. The ferry was late arriving in Skye, but it didn't matter did it, the bird was still there, so everything was good. Then ...

Tuesday 29th October 10.12am **MEGA ALERT**
Cornwall - Hermit Thrush - Porthgwarra

Oh bugger!!! We couldn't really be further away but people were immediately making plans to head south as soon as we arrived back on the mainland. I was just concentrating on the dove for now. The crossing was pretty rough, quite a few people were being sick and then news came through that the dove hadn't been seen since the first sighting this morning, marvellous!!! There was an instant mood change with the birders on board. Could we really be about to dip something that seemed so nailed on?

We arrived on the island later than expected and were told by the captain that we would have less than 2 hours before the return journey. Rock Cottage was about a 15 minute walk from the quay, so we set off in the rain. Arriving on site we were immediately told that the bird had been seen within the last half hour so at least it was still present, just not on show. We were allowed to view from inside the house, where tea, coffee, soup and scones were being offered by the islanders, amazing hospitality.

Then the bird was found to be roosting in the conifers, above the feeders, and after a bit of jostling, everyone connected, what a relief!!

 Mourning Dove - Isle of Rhum (Chris Bromley)

Having been told that we would be leaving for Mallaig at 2.30pm, we headed back to the quay and then waited for over an hour for the ferry to arrive, thankfully we had seen the bird and didn't need that extra hour on site. The return journey was a lot smoother and pretty uneventful, arriving back in Mallaig at 4.30pm, we immediately set off on the long journey south, just not to Cornwall!